When I was growing up, the world around me did not offer much by way of strong archetypes I could relate to. I wasn’t Princess material – too tall, too dark, too serious. No one was going to rescue me from a tower, or fight dragons on my behalf, that much was obvious. I didn’t fit. I wasn’t fashionable. Going through my teens, looking around at my peers and seeing who they emulated – I didn’t want to be part of that world.
It’s not easy growing up odd with no sense of where you fit or the kind of person you might be. Archetypes help us build our own identities and find places to fit. Female archetypes out there in the mainstream are not numerous. The pretty girl who makes money from her face, voice and body. High powered, shoulder-padded businesswoman who is mostly trying to be a bloke anyway. Domestic goddess and mother, all smiling benevolence and cake mix. Nice women. Women whose success is measured by their sexual appeal and fertility, or by the ability to pass as men. At college I discovered some very empowered gay and academic women, who I adored. But I wasn’t one of them either.
Then in my early twenties I started encountering other pagan women for the first time. Strong souls, creative, independent and not conforming to the mainstream either. Goth, hippy, folky dress styles on bodies that aren’t anorexically trendy. Women who are unapologetically themselves, manifesting their natures in all kinds of ways, accepting of each other, and not trying to be men. Sexy women whose sensuality isn’t all wrapped up in brand image and sales pitch. Mothers, yes. Workers, yes. But on their own terms. A mature kind of femininity, that isn’t sparkly, girlish or superficial. I have learned from these lovely people, and I have found my own place.
If you look to the many Goddesses of the pagan pantheons, they are a diverse bunch. Many preside over specifically female concerns around child bearing, hearth and home. Brigid might be midwife and keeper of the hearth flame, but she is also a smithing goddess. Diana and Artemis hunt. Athena presides over war, and poetry. The Morrigan stalks battlefields while Ceridwen brews magic. We can look to the Amazons, to Boudicca, Mogan Le Fay. And in our own time, powerful, imaginative women are leaders in the pagan community.
Be who you are, and show it. Be the archetype that lost girls in younger generations can look to. We can all be mothers to the maidens who follow us.